Bring Back 6th! Transform Olson Memorial Highway

Olson Memorial Highway, or Highway 55, is an urban highway running through North Minneapolis. It is one of many urban highways that divides communities, pollutes the environment, and creates a hazardous environment for nearby residents. Olson Memorial Highway has a uniquely devastating history, as the construction of the highway was at the expense of a thriving Black and Jewish cultural corridor along 6th Avenue N that was home to dozens of homes, shops, businesses, and music venues.

Some of these concerns were to be addressed with the construction of the Blue Line Light Rail Extension on Olson Memorial Highway. The light rail project was set to bring modest but much-needed traffic safety improvements as well as high-quality public transit service. However, after years of planning and development, the Metropolitan Council re-routed the Blue Line Extension and planned safety and transit improvements disappeared. Harrison and other Near North neighborhoods are now left to deal with the negative impacts of this broken promise.

Our Streets Minneapolis and the Harrison Neighborhood Association are leading a campaign to address the historic and ongoing harms of Olson Memorial Highway and reclaim the highway land to reconstruct 6th Avenue N.

We will continue organizing until the Minnesota Department of Transportation, the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority, the Metropolitan Council, Hennepin County and relevant elected officials and partners give a public commitment to:

  • Completing safety improvements by 2023
  • Returning the land to the community and restore the corridor to 6th Avenue North via a highway-to-boulevard conversion, with construction beginning by 2026
  • Committing to the implementation of the Bring Back 6th Housing & Community development benchmarks

 

UPDATE: MnDOT's project falls short of community needs

The Minnesota Department of Transportation, City of Minneapolis, and Hennepin County have launched a project that falls well short of the community’s demands and expectations for safety improvements on Olson Memorial Highway, and includes no public commitment to Bring Back 6th! We're organizing for a full project timeline, inclusion of Phase 1 improvements, and for improvements to be made permanent. Read a comparison of the community's demands vs MnDOT's proposal here.

The History of 6th Ave North

There land where Olson Memorial Highway lies today was once a vibrant, diverse business corridor along 6th Avenue North. The community had access to grocery stores, bakeries, entertainment, shopping, and more. Its numerous bars and music venues formed the heart of the Twin Cities jazz community. The area was also a cornerstone of the Jewish community in Minneapolis. By the end of the 1930s, hundreds of businesses and homes along the route were completely destroyed and replaced with a wide highway cutting through the neighborhoods.

Learn more about the history of 6th Avenue North


A Vision for the Future

9A79DEE7-A300-4998-8848-3AAD7E077877.gifPhase 1: Immediate improvements to the Olson Memorial Highway Corridor by 2023


Every year, people are killed and seriously injured in crashes on Olson Memorial Highway. The wide crossing distances and high traffic speeds make crossing the highway unpleasant and unsafe. The current infrastructure presents urgent concerns that need to be addressed immediately.

We calling on the Minnesota Department of Transportation to commit to:
  • Complete quick-build safety & multi-modal access improvements by 2023. We are recommending following quick-build safety improvements to Olson Memorial Highway between Lyndale Ave and Upton Ave:
    • Restripe the roadway to the following configuration in each direction: 6' bike lane, 11' dedicated bus lane, 11' general purpose lane, 11' general purpose lane with dedicated left turn lanes where adequate right-of-way exists.
    • Lower the posted speed limit to 25 mph
    • Improve lighting for pedestrians
    • Mark crosswalks at all intersections and mid-block crossings
    • Add leading pedestrian intervals and adjust walk signal timing so everyone, including people who are mobility impaired and parents with small children, have adequate time to cross the street
    • Use visual indicators, including artist designed crosswalks, to mark pedestrian crossings
    • Use paint and bollards to add pedestrian bump-outs on cross streets
  • Study the restoration of 6th Avenue North via a highway-to-boulevard conversion and returning highway right-of-way to the community and create a project to implement these changes

Phase 2: Replace the highway with 6th Avenue North starting in 2026


This phase focuses on a long-term vision to remove the highway and restore a walkable main street for Near North communities. Any and all of the adjoining parcels of publicly owned land that are included in the highway removal process should remain publicly owned and be placed in a publicly held land trust to ensure that new development benefits the existing community.
We calling on the Minnesota Department of Transportation to commit to:
  • Converting Olson Memorial Highway into a restored 6th Avenue N commercial corridor, with construction beginning in 2026
  • Put the remaining right-of-way in the publicly held land trust. This land will be used to create new affordable housing and business space, and ultimately rebuild a walkable 6th Avenue North commercial corridor.
  • Commit to the implementation of the relevant Bring Back 6th housing & community development benchmarks, including local hiring goals and community engagement best practices

As part of phase 2, we are also calling on Hennepin County, City of Minneapolis, Minneapolis Public Housing Authority and the Metropolitan Council to:

Harrison and Near North were once centered around the vibrant 6th Avenue North. Today, the community lacks walkable access to grocery stores and local businesses, communal spaces, quality transit, and other core amenities. Instead of a highway, we could have…

  • Access to fresh and healthy foods (grocery stores, co-ops)
  • Living wage paying-jobs
  • Communal spaces
  • Walkable green spaces
  • Access to fast and reliable public transportation
  • Family-friendly entertainment spaces
  • BIPOC business districts that create wealth and stability in our
  • Art and cultural hubs


The Highway Continues to Harm Near North Communities

Today, Olson Memorial Highway is a 6-lane wide highway that divides Near North Minneapolis. The speed limit on the corridor is 40 MPH, crossing locations are poorly regulated, and is identified as a high injury crash street. In fact, the intersection of Lyndale Ave N and Olson has the highest crash rate in all of Minneapolis. This highway fails to serve people who do not drive. Additionally, people living nearby face some of the worst air quality in the Twin Cities area. 


Housing and Community Development Benchmarks

Government agencies have created planning processes that overlook the voices of our immigrant, refugee, low-wealth and BIPOC communities and cater to the economic interests of outside developers and affluent residents. These intentional choices about transportation projects have brought destruction and displacement to our communities — over and over again. 

As we begin to engage in conversations around removing Olson Memorial Highway, we see the same entrenched processes and political interests once again threatening the families and small business owners who are the fabric of our beloved neighborhoods. Our vision is a community-centered planning process that commits to a racial justice framework and restorative approach that intentionally directs economic, social and environmental benefits of highway removal to immigrant/refugee, low-wealth and BIPOC communities along the project corridor — and beyond. We demand that changes on Olson Memorial Highway intentionally seek to repair historic harms and invest in the well-being of our neighborhoods.

Housing & Development

  • Equitable Community-Driven Development
  • Local Business Incubator Program
  • Inclusive Hiring Goals
  • Zero-Fare Transit
  • Anti-Displacement Policies and Tenant Protections
    • Rent Control
    • Rental Assistance Fund
    • Property Tax Freeze
    • Just Cause Eviction
    • Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Agreement (TOPA)

Consent & Engagement

  • Inclusive, accessible, & comprehensive engagement
  • 100% of households in project area contacted
  • All project information and engagement should be available in multiple languages
  • Publicly demonstrated minimum 60% approval rate from population representative of the project area in race, income, and disability

View the full set of benchmarks


Organizing Updates

Your advocacy is working! Bring Back 6th started as just an idea. Now, it is a full fledged community movement and decision makers are listening! Thanks to community support, MnDOT has committed to a "transformative project" for Olson Memorial Highway in 2027. Click here to view our current canvassing materials.

So far, we have knocked 6,500 doors in North Minneapolis for Bring Back 6th. Want to help us reach more people? Consider volunteering or making a gift.


"Is this vision really possible?" Yes!

The Minnesota Department of Transportation has a “Project Demonstration Fund” that would allow them to permanently install Phase 1 safety improvements along Olson Memorial Highway in a matter of months. Additionally, MnDOT has access to funds from the federal infrastructure bill that could be used for an Olson Memorial Highway project. Instead of reconstructing the highway and furthering harm, this money should go towards repairing and reconnecting the Near North community. 

"What about traffic impacts?" Studies show that when a highway is removed, much of the traffic disappears as well. Instead, people change their destination, take a different route, or utilize another mode of transportation. This is referred to as traffic evaporation. The changes proposed in Bring Back 6th would only add a couple minutes of driving time. Additionally, suburban commuters would have access to new transit and bike options. From improved health to economic outcomes, the benefits would far outweigh the costs and the community would have an opportunity to sustainably reclaim land and spaces to restore their economic and cultural vibrancy. Would you give up a couple minutes of driving time to help repair the community?

 


Decision Makers & Targets

Minnesota Department of Transportation

Title Name Email Phone
MnDOT Commissioner Nancy Daubenberger [email protected]  
MnDOT District Engineer Mike Barnes [email protected] 651-234-7700
MnDOT April Crockett [email protected] (651) 775-434

City of Minneapolis

Title Name Email Phone
Mayor Jacob Frey [email protected] 612-673-2100
Mayor Chief of Staff Mychal Vlatkovich [email protected] 612-673-3665
Director of Strategic Partnerships | Affordable Housing Andrea Inouye [email protected] 612-673-2984
Senior Policy Aide Becky Boland [email protected] 612-673-2100
Public Safety Jared Jeffries [email protected] 612-368-0552
Director of Policy and Government Affairs Peter Ebnet [email protected] 612-673-2156
Director of Economic Development & Policy Inclusion Rebecca Fabunmi [email protected] 612-673-3711
Communications Director Tara Niebeling [email protected] 612-673-3825
Office Associate Tou Tou Khamsot [email protected] 612-673-3477
Press Secretary Katie Lauer [email protected] 612-673-2100
Public Works Director Margaret Anderson Kelliher  
Deputy Director and City Engineer Bryan Dodds [email protected] 612-673-3061
Transportation Planning Manager Nathan Koster [email protected] 612-246-0220
Transportation Planning Manager Kathleen Mayell [email protected] 612-419-9835
Transportation Planning Director Jenifer Hager [email protected] 612-673-3625

Minneapolis City Council

Title Name Email Phone
Ward 1 Council Member Elliott Payne [email protected] 612-673-2201
Ward 1 Policy Aide Benjamin Carrier benjam[email protected] 612-673-2003
Ward 1 Policy Aide Liam Davis Temple [email protected] 612-673-7920
Ward 2 Council Member Robin Wonsley [email protected] 612-673-2202
Ward 2 Policy Aide Qannani Omar [email protected] 612-673-7142
Ward 2 Policy Aide Celeste Robinson [email protected] 612-673-3654
Ward 3 Council Member Michael Rainville [email protected] 612-673-2203
Ward 3 Policy Aide Ryan San Cartier [email protected] 612-673-3142
Ward 3 Policy Aide Henry Jarvinen [email protected] 612-673-3126
Ward 4 Council Member Latrisha Vetaw [email protected] 612-673-2204
Ward 4 Policy Aide Betsy Brock [email protected] 612-673-3313
Ward 4 Policy Aide Maggie Kohl [email protected] 612-673-7930
Ward 5 Council Member Jeremiah Ellison [email protected] 612-673-2205
Ward 5 Policy Aide Dieu Do [email protected] 612-673-3198
Ward 5 Policy Aide Bethany Turnwall [email protected] 612-673-7140
Ward 6 Council Member Jamal Osman [email protected] 612-673-2206
Ward 6 Policy Aide Sean Broom [email protected] 612-673-3315
Ward 6 Policy Aide Hamdiya Abdulahi [email protected] 612-673-7139
Ward 7 Council Member Lisa Goodman [email protected] 612-673-2207
Ward 7 Policy Aide Patrick Sadler [email protected] 612-673-3195
Ward 7 Policy Aide Zach Schultz [email protected] 612-673-7144
Ward 8Council Member Andrea Jenkins [email protected] 612-673-2208
Ward 8 Policy Aide Deebaa Sirdar [email protected] 612-673-3569
Ward 8 Policy Aide Zoe Bourgerie [email protected] 612-673-7144
Ward 9 Council Member Jason Chavez [email protected] 612-673-2209
Ward 9 Policy Aide Zaynab Mohamed [email protected] 612-673-7196
Ward 9 Policy Aide Aurin Chowdhury [email protected] 612-673-7145
Ward 10 Council Member Aisha Chughtai [email protected] 612-673-2210
Ward 10 Policy Aide LyLy Vang Yang [email protected] 612-673-3197
Ward 10 Policy Aide Yasmin Hirsi [email protected] 612-673-7169
Ward 11 Council Member Emily Koski [email protected] 612-673-2211
Ward 11 Policy Aide Melissa Hill [email protected] 612-673-3314
Ward 11 Policy Aide Corinne Horowitz [email protected] 612-673-7143
Ward 12 Council Member Andrew Johnson [email protected] 612-673-2212
Ward 12 Policy Aide Kate Nelson [email protected] 612-673-2378
Ward 12 Policy Aide Dylan Kesti [email protected] 612-673-7138
Ward 13 Council Member Linea Palmisano [email protected] 612-673-2213
Ward 13 Policy Aide John Freude [email protected] 612-673-3199
Ward 13 Policy Aide Ruth Olson [email protected] 612-673-7147

State and National Representatives

Title Name Email Phone
Senator Bobby Joe Champion [email protected] 651-296-9246
Bobby Joe Champion Legislative Assistant Shemeka Bogan   651-296-9246
Representative Esther Agbaje [email protected] 651-296-8659
Esther Agbaje Legislative Assistant Shenika Chambers   651-297-8387
Congresswoman Ilhan Omar [email protected] 202-225-4755
Senior Community Representative Akolade Gbadamosi [email protected]  
Representative Frank Hornstein [email protected] 651-296-9281
Frank Hornsetin Legislative Assistant Dan Dodge   651-296-9281
Senator Scott Dibble [email protected] 651-296-4191
Scott Dibble Legislative Assistant Beth Ethier   651-296-4191
Representative Fue Lee [email protected] 651-296-4262
Fue Lee Legislative Assistant Blake Wilcox   651-296-8803
Representative Sydney Jordan [email protected] 651-296-4219
Sydney Jordan Legislative Assistant Matt Baumann   651-296-9676

Hennepin County

Title Name Email Phone
Hennepin County Commissioner Irene Fernando [email protected] 612-348-7882
Irene Fernando Communications and Policy Aide Akhilesh Menawat [email protected]  
Irene Fernando Constituent Services and Policy Aide Bill Emory [email protected]  
Hennepin County Commissioner Marion Greene [email protected] 612-348-7883
Marion Green Policy Aide Elie Farhat [email protected] 612-348-7125
Marion Greene District Aide and Scheduler Laura Hoffman [email protected] 612-348-0863
Hennepin County Commissioner Angela Conley [email protected] 612-348-7884
Angela Conley Policy Aide Binta Kanteh [email protected] 612-348-5204
Angela Conley District Outreach and Scheduler Shanese Reed [email protected] 612-348-3204

Donate today to support our organizing efforts and bring this vision to life.

 

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